Cuban Revolution

The Cuban Revolution was an armed revolt conducted by Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement and its allies against the regime of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. The revolution began in July 1953,and finally ousted Batista on 1 January 1959, replacing his regime with Castro’s revolutionary government. Castro’s government later reformed along communist lines, becoming the present Communist Party of Cuba in October 1965.

In 1952, Fidel Castro, a young lawyer and activist, petitioned for the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista, whom he accused of corruption and tyranny. However, Castro’s arguments were rejected by the Cuban courts. After deciding that the Batista regime could not be overthrown through legal means, Castro gathered a force of armed rebels, and attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago and the barracks in Bayamo on 26 July 1953. The exact number of rebels killed in the battle is debatable; however, in his autobiography, Castro claimed that nine were killed in the fighting, and an additional 56 were killed later by the Batista regime.Among the dead was Abel Santamaría, Castro’s second-in-command, who was imprisoned, tortured, and executed on the same day as the attack.

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The survivors, including Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl Castro Ruz, were captured shortly afterwards. In a highly political trial, Fidel spoke for nearly four hours in his defense, ending with the words; “Condemn me, it does not matter.History will absolve me.” Fidel was sentenced to 15 years in the Presidio Modelo prison, located on Isla de Pinos, while Raúl was sentenced to 13 years.

The yacht Granma arrived in Cuba on 2 December 1956, carrying the Castro brothers and 80 other members of the 26th of July Movement. It landed on Playa Las Coloradas, in the municipality of Niquero, arriving two days later than planned because the boat was heavily loaded, unlike during the practice sailing runs.This dashed any hopes for a coordinated attack with the llano wing of the movement. After arriving and exiting the ship, the band of rebels began to make their way into the Sierra Maestra mountains, a range in southeastern Cuba. Three days after the trek began, Batista’s army attacked and killed most of the Granma participants – while the exact number is disputed, no more than twenty of the original eighty-two men survived the initial bloody encounters with the Cuban army and escaped into the Sierra Maestra mountains.

On 21 August 1958, after the defeat of Batista’s Ofensiva, Castro’s forces began their own offensive. In the Oriente province (in the area of the present-day provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Granma,Guantánamo and Holguín), Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro and Juan Almeida Bosque directed attacks on four fronts. Descending from the mountains with new weapons captured during the Ofensiva and smuggled in by plane, Castro’s forces won a series of initial victories. Castro’s major victory at Guisa, and the successful capture of several towns including Maffo, Contramaestre, and Central Oriente, brought the Cauto plains under his control.

Meanwhile, three rebel columns, under the command of Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and Jaime Vega, proceeded westward toward Santa Clara, the capital of Villa Clara Province. Batista’s forces ambushed and destroyed Jaime Vega’s column, but the surviving two columns reached the central provinces, where they joined efforts with several other resistance groups not under the command of Castro. When Che Guevara’s column passed through the province of Las Villas, and specifically through the Escambray Mountains – where the anticommunist Revolutionary Directorate forces (who became known as the 13 March Movement) had been fighting Batista’s army for many months – friction developed between the two groups of rebels. Nonetheless, the combined rebel army continued the offensive, and Cienfuegos won a key victory in the Battle of Yaguajay on 30 December 1958, earning him the nickname “The Hero of Yaguajay”.

Map of Cuba showing the location of the arrival of the rebels on the Granma in late 1956, and the rebels’ stronghold in the Sierra Maestra. The map also shows Guevara and Cienfuegos’s route towards Havanavia Las Villas Province in December 1958.

On 31 December 1958, the Battle of Santa Clara took place in a scene of great confusion. The city of Santa Clara fell to the combined forces of Che Guevara, Cienfuegos, Revolutionary Directorate (RD) rebels led by Comandantes Rolando Cubela, Juan (“El Mejicano”) Abrahantes, and William Alexander Morgan. News of these defeats caused Batista to panic. He fled Cuba for the Dominican Republic just hours later on 1 January 1959. Comandante William Alexander Morgan, leading RD rebel forces, continued fighting as Batista departed, and had captured the city of Cienfuegos by 2 January.

Castro learned of Batista’s flight in the morning and immediately started negotiations to take over Santiago de Cuba. On 2 January, the military commander in the city, Colonel Rubido, ordered his soldiers not to fight, and Castro’s forces took over the city. The forces of Guevara and Cienfuegos entered Havana at about the same time. They had met no opposition on their journey from Santa Clara to Cuba’s capital. Castro himself arrived in Havana on 8 January after a long victory march. His initial choice of president, Manuel Urrutia Lleó, took office on January 3.

References:

“The Cuban Revolution.” About.com Latin American History. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/historyofthecaribbean/p/08cubanrevo.htm&gt;.

“History of the Cuban Revolution.” History of the Cuban Revolution. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <http://www.rcgfrfi.easynet.co.uk/ratb/cuba/cuba_rev.htm&gt;.

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